Obit: Brian Behan
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Obit: Brian Behan


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weerover 09 Nov 02 - 05:53 AM
Big Tim 09 Nov 02 - 07:03 AM
Peter K (Fionn) 09 Nov 02 - 08:10 AM
Peter K (Fionn) 09 Nov 02 - 08:28 AM
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Subject: Obit: Brian Behan
From: weerover
Date: 09 Nov 02 - 05:53 AM

Brian Behan, brother of the late Brendan and Dominic and a writer in his own right, has died at the age of 75. I'll leave it for someone with more knowledge than I have to post a more detaile obituary.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Brian Behan
From: Big Tim
Date: 09 Nov 02 - 07:03 AM

I don't know much about him either but I enjoyed his books and his interviews in the "Irish Post". I also enjoyed his, tongue in cheek, I think, ideas of what he would do if he ever became Prime Minister: pay the parents of children who didn't vandalise things, and make daily sea bathing compulsory for all citizens! (He swam in the[North] sea every day himself).

The consensus seems to be that he was the least talented of the writers in his family but it was a very talented family.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Brian Behan
From: Peter K (Fionn)
Date: 09 Nov 02 - 08:10 AM

He certainly had at leat a few plays produced professionally, the last I think being "Hallelujah I'm a Bum" about a gay affair between a prime minister and his minister for family values. He was active in the CPGB until the USSR crackdown on Hungary, and then joined the Trots. In the fifties he was jailed at least once for trade union activities.

I should think that those daily swims were more probably in the English Channel, as he lived in Brighton.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Brian Behan
From: Peter K (Fionn)
Date: 09 Nov 02 - 08:28 AM

Here's The Guardian's obit. I'll paste it in full in case the link disappears.

Brian Behan

Writer and self-publicist who revelled in his family's rebellious reputation

Martin Green
Tuesday November 5, 2002
The Guardian

Courageous, contentious and exhilarating, the writer and playwright Brian Behan, who has died aged 75 following a heart attack, never missed the opportunity to remind the world who and where he was; this could include plunging naked into the sea in Brighton to the consternation of elderly ladies, and thus, on one occasion, triggering the mobilisation of a rescue helicopter.
In 1984, he published Mother Of All The Behans, "an autobiography of Kathleen Behan as told to Brian Behan", a delightful memoir of that most extraordinary family. This was turned into an award-winning one-woman show.

His enthusiasm for self-proclamation also led to a series of dramatisations in which he played various parts himself. There was The Begrudgers, set in postwar Dublin, about the literary rivalry between Brendan Behan, Brian O'Nolan and Patrick Kavanagh; Brother Of All The Behans; and Barking Sheep.

His also wrote two novels, neither of which attracted as much attention as his personal escapades - Time To Go (1979), and Kathleen (1988), inspired by his mother. Two years later, his play, Boots For The Fearless, was performed at the Tricycle theatre in London. His satirical play, Hallelujah I'm a Bum (1995), depicting a Conservative prime minister having a homosexual relationship with his minister for the family, aroused an appropriate level of media attention.

Brian was born four years after his most famous brother, the playwright Brendan, and two years before the slightly less famous Dominic, into a family of staunch Irish republicans. There was also a sister, Carmel, and two step-brothers. During the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin, Brian's mother had acted as a courier for James Connolly and Padraig Pearse. She lost her first husband in the 1918 influenza epidemic, and married Brian's father, Stephen, in 1922.

The family fortunes were in a state of flux; following a removal to a crowded open-hall tenement in Russell Street, north Dublin, the children slept six to a bed. In 1937, Brian, who recalled that he took up "the cause of anarcho-syndicalism at an early age", was sent to Artane industrial school, run by the Christian Brothers, after an incident of petty thieving. He said the Brothers scarred him for life. He then had a stint with the Irish Army construction corps.

In 1950, he went to London with three shillings and four pence (17p) in his pocket; England was, he wrote in his 1964 autobiography, With Breast Expanded, the land of "big money and small shovels". He became a hod carrier. An active trade unionist, his campaigning, while working on the Festival of Britain building site, earned him a brief spell in prison in 1951 - as did his later efforts, in 1958, on the nearby Shell Centre site.

He joined the British Communist party, and became an executive member - though even on a party tour, during which, he said, he met Stalin and Mao Zedong, he was unimpressed by Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union and China. He was slightly disconcerted by the amount of work women appeared to be doing while the menfolk were attending meetings, and was deeply depressed by Russia, which he thought very Victorian - and non-revolutionary.

In 1956, Brian left the Communist party following the suppression of the Hungarian uprising, and moved on to the Socialist Labour League, a Trotskyist group then being set up by an authoritarian fellow Irishman, Gerry Healy. Behan was seen as a significant recruit - he became the group's secretary - but it was not to last. Like many others, he was expelled for "deviation ism". Healy, he observed, was "bald, with the little sore eyes of a new-born pig".

I first met Brian in 1964, when I was working for MacGibbon & Kee, the publishers of his memoirs. This came about because the chief editor, Timothy O'Keeffe, had previously been the publisher of Brendan Behan's Borstal Boy. Brian and I became great friends, and I was a frequent visitor when he moved to a houseboat in Shoreham, with his hospitable first wife, Celia.

Brian had suffered some minor arm injury, which put an end to his career in the construction industry. With his skill as a bricklayer removed, I suggested he might become a mature student at Sussex University - and he did. From 1969, he read history and English, before taking a teaching course, which, in time and turn, led to a lectureship in media studies at the London College of Printing, from 1973 until 1990.

During those years, Brian once brought his mother - who died in 1984 - to my local pub, the Hope, in Tottenham Street, central London. There, she enchanted a large group of admirers with part of her huge repertoire of songs, many of which had been passed on to Brendan and Dominic.

The publicity instinct never deserted Brian. As recently as last year, following a brisk television exchange with Germaine Greer, he announced that he was setting up an anti-marriage society.

Brian and Celia had three daughters. By his second wife, the artist Sally Hill, who died two years ago, he had a son and daughter.
· Brian Behan, writer, born November 10 1926; died November 2 2002

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